Packaging and its design are often considered a trivial attribute in the product’s makeup. Perhaps to some extent at fault for this are the overly used superlatives about a packaging’s role as a “silent salesman” and similar clichés, which do nothing more but make management cringe at the thought of listening to yet another reason why the packaging design of their products is a topic that deserves their attention.
Forget about the trivial clichés. Packaging is nothing but an aspect of a bigger entity, it is no less or more important that the product itself, the brand, and the non-tangible emotional appeal of the offering. In terms of importance and impact, packaging design is at equal footing with the broader marketing strategies, brand positioning and product performance. So when any of these other topics require care, attention and development, most certainly packaging would as well. If packaging design is brought to the table only when declining sales and shrinking market alert for attention, then it is undoubtedly clear that management has unintentionally failed to care for the big picture and instead has been focusing on scattered elements of the broader brand and product strategy.
One of the most frequent pitfalls we encounter when we get acquainted with the challenges of our clients is that packaging is viewed as an afterthought, an annoyance that needs to be handled, or as the last hurdle to be overcome before product launch. The reality is that packaging design is more often than not an unused opportunity for differentiation. A vast resource that many miss to tap into. It is a canvas that can handle change relatively quickly, and gets almost immediate visibility in store - much faster than other brand message mediums such as advertising, social media promotion, viral campaigns etc. Regardless of whether people use social media, watch TV or care to listen to their friends’ recommendations, it is certain that they go to a store and purchase products, surrounded by other products. As such, packaging is a powerful strategic tool that gets often overlooked in favor of more expensive and much more complex loyalty building and purchase inciting strategies.
Here are five good reasons to consider utilizing packaging strategically:
1. When you need to engage with the audience rapidly
An average packaging redesign project takes between two to six months from initiation to the product sitting on the shelf in stores. (Serious disruptive innovation warrants on average six to twelve months at minimum, but that is a different topic to be addressed in the future). Compared to the cost of advertising and social campaigns, and the time needed to establish engagement with the audience, packaging design is a relatively fast and significantly lower cost approach to getting a message across and into your consumers hands - quite literally. Better yet, it is a masterful supplementation to any viral campaign or promotion. Packaging is the fastest way to reach consumers beyond surface consideration on the couch and within the moments in store where purchase intent and behavior are actualised. Redesigning your packaging intelligently and with measure in lieu of, or in support of, brand engagement strategies, can boost consumer activation at any time, above and beyond the seasonal updates packaging usually gets for the holidays.
2. When you need to establish in-depth connection with the audience
As an undervalued and underused medium at large, packaging is usually utilized to shout “buy-me!” on shelf (hopefully louder than the competition). Packaging design can (and should) be used more purposefully – to tell a story, to engage emotionally with a narrative, to lure the viewer in a world of exploration, or to provide a beautiful addition to one’s home. Packaging can humanize a brand, it can provide consumers with a valuable reference point (a continuous reminder) about the brand’s proposition once the product is purchased and brought into the home. Packaging is a medium that can appeal to more senses than all other consumer outreach mediums. As such, it can make a significant difference for a brand and establish profound connections with the audience.
3. When the competitive scape has changed
The competitive scape of packaged goods is dynamic and ever evolving. As new entrants compete for attention, established brands evolve and live up to their expected roles of trend-setters. Often in this chase for attention, product categories begins to look like a compilation of badly sung karaoke songs. Revisiting your packaging design every 6 to 12 months will ensure that originality, creativity and relevance prevail in your outreach to consumers, over attempts to out-shout the competition.
4. When your broader product portfolio expands and changes
Regular portfolio audits ensure consistent feel of the brand across its product offering. As new products are added and old ones drop out, a clear vision about the visual presentation of the brand as a whole works to maintain and improve the brand image in consumers’ associative mindsets. Most importantly, measured, strategic packaging redesign across the board can eliminate portfolio fragmentation and can minimize the risk for “dead zones” within the portfolio. Redesigning your packaging should always follow broader rebranding initiatives which are driven by changes in brand guidelines or strategy.
5. When the core market changes and evolves
Packaging redesign is most frequently used to attract new audience. However, it should just as often be used to maintain relevance within an evolving audience and to address consumers' desire for change and novelty. As generations of consumers get older and new ones emerge with fresh purchasing power, maintaining brand relevance with the core or expanding market can be done easily through packaging design. Changes in the cultural context of the audience and in the psychographic profiles of the brand’s core market can be accommodated with strategic maintenance and adaptation of the brand’s visual presentation.
Whatever the reasons to consider rebranding or redesigning your packaging, it is important to ensure that your budget is spent on the right things: avoid surface cosmetic changes, or drastic repositioning without strategic justification. Any packaging redesign, whether it is evolutionary or revolutionary in nature, should preserve and strengthen the key mechanisms that drive purchasing behavior from consumers. Design and strategy are mutually dependent – from the smallest packaging facelift to groundbreaking structural innovation and repositioning – successful implementation is rooted in proactivity and demands agility, adaptiveness and responsiveness to markets and consumers.
PACKLAB helps outstanding brands world-wide to be more competitive on the shelf, connect better with their consumers and reach more markets across the globe.